What are you afraid of? Maybe you’re one of the fortunate few who aren’t afraid of anything. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions humans experience. Many fears are justified, but just as many may be a mere figment of our imaginations. Playing the “what ifs” in your own head is a deadly game and should be avoided at all costs! The “what ifs” almost never come to pass, yet our imaginations can lead us to unnecessary worry, fear, and literally make us sick!
My guess is that you’ve got one or two fears that might be annoying or stopping you from enjoying life more fully. How would you like to overcome your fears? I have overcome two nearly debilitating fears of my own merely by facing them head on. It’s scary, but so worth it!
My first fear? The piano. I love and am fascinated with a pianist or anyone who can calmly get up in front of a group and play. I had eight years of piano growing up but detested every minute. And like many adults, regret quitting. Because of some negative experiences with playing in front of people, I became terrified of it. To this day, I would rather speak in public to a million people rather than play the piano in front of my husband, who incidentally, thinks I’m great at it. (He knows nothing about music and is easily entertained.)
When our four girls were growing up, I insisted that they take lessons until their junior year in high school. They all did and two of them actually taught lessons themselves after they got married. Fortunately, they never asked, “Hey wait a minute mom, if this is so important, what about you? Why don’t you play?” So we have this beautiful baby grand piano in our living room gathering dust and staying silent. My husband almost gets teary as he begs me to take lessons again. What? I don’t want to do that! That’s too hard! Hypocritical? You decide.
I actually took lessons a couple of years ago from a concert pianist who was going through a divorce and needed money. I hoped that somehow, her prowess would magically rub off on me. It didn’t. She was sweet and talented but she intimidated me terribly! She had me playing music that was way too advanced. Every time I drove to her house, my palms would sweat and my heart would race. It was torture! Luckily she met some guy on line, got married and moved to Sacramento. Yeay! I was saved. The piano was once again silent. (I wonder if pianos ever feel abandoned like Andy’s toys in Toy Story…)
A few months ago, my sweet husband practically begged me to take lessons again. He loves to hear that piano being played no matter how bad it is. So I actually got online to search for a teacher. I didn’t want anyone who knew me at all. I have plenty of friends who teach piano. No thank you! See how pathetically freaked out I was? I found this darling girl that runs an academy teaching teachers how to teach and she only instructs adults. Great. She’s very patient and surprisingly encouraging of my ability. She has repeated over and over and praised my skill level at how fast I’m learning. Really? I couldn’t believe her. I wouldn’t believe her. My hangup? Me. So dumb. I know it’s dumb but it still freaks me out. Then I went to a movie over the holidays that changed my outlook called “Unbroken”.
I have no excuse
This movie is about an Olympic runner from Torrance, Cal named Louie Zamperini who joins the army Air Force during WWII and becomes a fighter pilot. Dave and I had previously read the book but he actually finished it. I stopped right after the Japanese “rescued” Louie and threw him into a prison camp. I couldn’t bear to read what was going to happen to him! Yes, I’m wimpy. And yes, it was awful. My big, tough son-in-law cried like a baby reading this book. I bravely sat through the whole movie though! It is a movie of almost unfathomable forgiveness. This man was incredible. He survived unspeakable atrocities yet knew, in his heart, that not to forgive would have killed him. Giving up was not in this man’s vocabulary. He just never did.
One line in this movie shot through me like a bolt of lightning – even though I’ve heard it hundreds of times. “If you can take it, you can make it.” I pondered how that statement related to me. It literally changed my whole outlook on my fears. I made up my mind right there and then that I was not going to let this petty fear rob me of a talent that has lain dormant for way too long. I have done some really hard things and overcome hard things. I’ve watched my family and friends overcome hard things. Was I really going to let something as silly as the piano paralyze me? No. Will I ever be a concert pianist? Maybe – if I charge my husband to sit in the living room and listen, but that’s about it. I can honestly say that I’m enjoying the learning, and letting go of that 40-plus-year fear is so liberating! Why do we cling to our fears and refuse to let go?
One more out of the way
I also had an experience recently that cured my fear of heights. We were in charge of a church youth conference at Northern Arizona University. There was a ropes course that all the kids participated in to overcome their fears and promote teamwork. One feature of this course presented a huge log beam about 30′ high and 30′ long attached to two other poles that you would scale and bravely balance as you walked across the length of that log. Not me, of course, not in a million years would I do that. So I merely walked around with my important clip board and made sure that everyone else did it.
Suddenly, two men on my staff, as a joke, picked me up, threw me in a harness and hoisted me up to the top of that beam forcing me to walk across it! Way down below were many youth, laughing and cheering me on. I was SO angry! I was more angry than fearful! I took the first step and stomped rather quickly across that beam so that I could then climb down and beat those guys to a pulp. But on the ground, it dawned on me. I did it!! I walked across that darn high beam no problem! What? That was incredible to me. I was ecstatic that those men had played that “joke” on me even though I still wanted to beat them to a pulp! I did it again and again. My fear of heights, as my fear of playing the piano in public, was almost gone. What had changed? My mind. That was it.
These are both pretty personal and sensitive stories that I have shared with you which has strangely made me feel better and a little less crazy! I do not mean to diminish legitimate fears or suggest that that all you need to do is hop on a beam and you’re magically cured. But… “what if?” What are you afraid of? Is it time to start loving what you fear? You’re tougher than you think. Just remember that “If you can take it, you can make it”!